The Impact of Plastic On the Earth [INFOGRAPHIC]

Posted on March 27, 2018 | Last Updated On: September 30th, 2020 by

If you are reading this online, it is likely that plastic is at your fingertips – on your keyboard. Your monitor will also be framed by plastic, and your mouse will likely contain plastic as well. And that is literally only what is at your fingertips.

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The Truth About Plastic

Did you know, each year there’s enough plastic that’s thrown away to circle the earth four times. It can even impact the environment buried deep within the earth. And, every piece of plastic made still exists today. It accounts for about 10% of generated waste.

People in the U.S. are making more plastic waste than ever and not much of it gets recycled. Plastic products are littering our oceans, cities and waterways and are contributing to health issues in animals and humans.

It takes plastic over 1,000 years to degrade in landfills and storing plastic in landfills might just be storing future issues.

Certain types of plastics are actually toxic, like vinyl or PVC. PVC contains heavy metals and phthalates and when it burns, it creates dioxins. Bisphenol-A (BPA) is in other types of plastics and is a type of chemical that disrupts hormones.

Those exposed to BPA the most have an increased rate of diabetes and heart disease. And, over 92% of individuals who are six years old and older test positive for BPA.

Plastic Bags or Reusable Bags – Which Is the Better Choice?

While you can recycle plastic, it requires special equipment to process them and you can’t combine them with general recycling. Since plastic bags also clog the machines, a lot of municipal recycling plants have made the decision to not accept plastic bags.

Furthermore, people have to return them to specific collection centers and while a lot of supermarkets do offer this service, only 1% of plastic bags actually get recycled, according to Waste Management.

There is the option of reusable shopping bags and totes. Eco-friendly promotional reusable grocery bags are created from various materials. If you make the decision to use reusable bags, you’ll want to consider the material used in the bag and how often you plan on using the bag over and over.

Cotton and polypropylene (PP) are the two materials most commonly found in reusable bags. PP is a durable type of plastic and because they’re reusable and washable, they can have a positive effect.

Not to mention, reusable bags come in many different prints and shapes, making shopping a bit more fun. Reusable bags help our marine life.

The average reusable bag has a lifespan of over 700 disposable plastic bags.

Ways to Reduce Your Plastic Footprint

Only 25% of the plastics produced in the U.S. are recycled.

The world’s addiction to plastic is totally unsustainable, which is why many individuals make a genuine effort to substantially slow down or stop the use of things like:

  • Plastic bags and bottles
  • Straws
  • Clamshell packaging
  • Disposable utensils

It’s also why people recycle, a commendable activity that is recognized, but unfortunately not sufficient to make up for the world’s plastic addiction.

Many nations have come together to make a positive impact on the crisis.

Over 60 countries have put taxes and bans in place to help reduce plastic waste. A lot charge several pennies for plastic shopping bags. By 2021, the European Union will totally prohibit the use of single-use plastic plates and cutlery and plastic straws in an effort to shift individuals to alternatives like:

  • Cardboard containers
  • Bamboo forks
  • Reusable coffee cups

New York and other cities are taxing and banning plastic bags as well. And, more companies are decreasing product packaging plastics.

It’s become more urgent to use less plastic since 2018 when China, which used to import nearly 45% of the used plastic for recycling and disposal worldwide, stopped accepting this type of waste partially since a lot of it was contaminated. Even prior to China switching up its policy, people were recycling only 9% of plastic.

Ways you can reduce your plastic footprint are:

1. Just Say No

This means you’ll need to learn to avoid or refuse things you really don’t need. Whether it’s a free toothbrush provided by your dentist, a free plastic straw at a fast-food place, a free custom plastic bag at a retail shop or a free pen at a conference, freebies are often used for attraction consumers all over.

And, for the most part, individuals don’t have a problem accepting something for free. But, what you probably don’t realize, each time you accept a free item like any of these, you’re creating the demand for more to be made. Therefore, the next time somebody offers you a free plastic product, regardless of what it is, ask yourself if you really need it. You’ll likely find most of the time, you don’t.

2. Avoid Plastic Bottled Water

When possible, filter your own water. Plastic bottled water isn’t any safer than filtered tap water, although the industry isn’t required to disclose it’s testing results.

3. Switch Disposables to Reusables

An ideal way of curbing plastic waste is by switching to reusable items rather than relying on plastic disposable things like:

  • Containers
  • Carry bags
  • Cutlery

Reusing will not just help save money and time, but it will help save resources and energy that would have otherwise gone towards making even more disposables. So a good start is by bringing your own reusable containers and tote bags to places like the grocery store.

4. Use Silverware

When you order takeout, ask the restaurant to not pack any plastic straws or cutlery and use your own silverware and drink out of the cup without a straw instead.

5. Use a Bamboo Toothbrush or a Toothbrush with a Replaceable Head

The bamboo toothbrush market is rapidly growing. Most toothbrush bristles will continue having synthetic fibers, however, you can at least avoid having to throw the toothbrush’s plastic arm away every three months or so.

Because it’s non-biodegradable, plastic is a substantial cause of land pollution. It’s an issue that will continue growing unless more people commit to stop disposing of and using plastic bags irresponsibly. It’s our responsibility to fight against the problem of plastic pollution. While it won’t be a simple task to cut back significant or stop plastic use altogether, you can at least use reusable bags that will help alleviate the problem considerably and protect the precious planet.

About ReuseThisBag.com

In addition to our primary focus on helping to reduce the number of single-use plastic grocery bags in the world, we actively support a range of environmental advocacy efforts through a variety of partnerships and initiatives. ReuseThisBag.com supports national and local environmental organizations such as Heal the Bay, Surfrider Foundation, Treehugger, and more.

About the Author

Douglas Lober Chief Product Specialist

Doug Lober is Co-Founder and Chief Product Specialist for ReuseThisBag.com. Lober is a passionate environmentalist with roots in the Southern California surf culture. Over the last 15 years, Lober has launched and supported a number of environmental initiatives around the land, sea, and air. Today, he continues to provide and support the use of eco-friendly promotional products for small, medium, and Fortune 500 companies. You can learn more about his extensive background in the industry on Linkedin.com, Quora.com, Instagram.com, Twitter and Alignable.com

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